Six months ago on Mother’s Day my daughter gave me a special gift: StoryWorth. Every week a question comes to my in my inbox and I write a story, often a family memory. At the end of the year 52 stories will be compiled in a book. I’m half way through creating this family heirloom. It has been delightful. This week’s question was “What are some of your special talents?” I know you readers have them. How would you answer this? My writing here has seemed so heavy of late. These are hard times. Since my response was pertinent to my current work, and it felt light and easy, I decided to share it here. I hope you enjoy.
I was gifted with a few special talents. A natural ability to find my way with ease around any kitchen and produce something yummy to eat. An instinctual understanding of the inner workings of my own body and therefore other bodies. An organic dance response to just about anything with a beat. A natural sense of direction and a trust in my earth connection that yields total comfort with the great outdoors. These are skills I’ve taken for granted nearly my whole life. But the talent that surprised me late in life, the skill that is only twenty years new, is my ability to DJ. Who knew?
Within a few months of dancing 5Rhythms I became super-curious about what music at home would support my practice. I started to notice what tracks worked in each rhythm. When I asked my local teacher about how he chose music, his answer was so simple. Anything he loved to move to was game AND counting beats helped him categorize songs. With those two sage pieces of advice I was transported to a world I never knew existed.
It was all about CDs back then. There was a man in my community with an incredible world music collection. Every Tuesday night I came to dance he’d gift me another handful he’d meticulously copied. Each CD was encased in a sleeve handwritten with all the tracks and artists. He methodically journeyed me all the way through Africa, Europe and Asia and then ended with a Native American dive. I am eternally grateful for his patient, freely given education. I ended up with four giant black notebooks chock full of hundreds of discs.
It was a new kind of heaven when I entered our front bedroom with the emptiest floor. While I listened, moved, felt, beat-counted and catalogued, time stood still. Three or four hours would pass and I would emerge bewildered about where the time had gone. It was as close to obsessed as I have ever been. My lifelong avid reader habit completely halted for five solid years. In my spare time, all I wanted to do was music immerse. I would spend hours at our used CD store, The Beat. It was such a satisfying thrill to discover new artists, new genres, new tracks.
It wasn’t long before I realized I was not alone in this passion. As I dove into a steady Bay area workshop diet I met other budding DJs. Pretty soon all those CDs were history when it all switched to mp3 files. We would gather with our laptop computers and pass memory sticks around. For me, there is great joy and satisfaction in dancing to something brand new, something I have never moved to before. This semi-addiction keeps it’s energy alive by generating a sense of never enough-ness. Can be a bit crazy-making.
It still keeps me super-engaged but it has definitely lost the compulsive hold. My ears, my heart, my hips are finely tuned by twenty years of collecting. Once I started using the music to support facilitation it got more organized. My library is arranged into folders: each rhythm, transitions between rhythms, body parts, tribal, repetition, voice-over, lyrics, instrumental, drumming. I used to count beats but now I have a beat counter. There are FaceBook pages for teachers to virtually gather and share their new favorites or ask for music to support particular themes.
Even though all these years of development make pulling together a playlist second nature, I adore this work. It requires me to be still, feel what is alive inside me, start moving with whatever it is to formulate a theme, a thread that holds the wave together. As I begin to piece it, I feel it develop a life influenced by music I select. Like a detective, I seek just the right next track. So satisfying to land it and routinely surprising when live with it, you realize it doesn’t work. The folders allow me to create 100% on the fly and more importantly, this organization allows me to change “plans” (hah!) in the moment. I never know about the group animal beforehand. The adrenaline rush is phenomenal sometimes.
I’m so grateful to have been given the opportunity to cultivate an embryonic talent. I truly believe we have many gifts that lie dormant. I would love to know what you personally know about this topic. What are some of your special talents? Is there something you sense emerging? Something that begs encouragement? Maybe this unique hiatus, everything thrown up in the air, rearranging in a free fall—maybe this is the perfect time to consider this question. Destruction and creation are so powerfully intertwined. Let me know what you find.